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Posts tagged ‘cassoulet recipe kit’

Conquering Cassoulet

090102_cassoulet_hpIn recent years cassoulet has really taken off, and we couldn’t be happier. It’s downright common to see cassoulet on menus and in magazines these days….in all manner of variations. There’s even a recently-published book of essays called “The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage.”  We don’t promise cassoulet miracles, but we can help to dispel your fears about making it at home.  It’s a lot easier than you might imagine.

You can think of cassoulet as the French version of chili: A slow-cooked bean stew studded with tender meat that is best devoured by a crowd. It’s stick-to-your-ribs fare, and French towns compete for best cassoulet, much like a chili cook-off.

For more on the history of cassoulet, and some great photos, check this post.

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Ariane serving cassoulet at a cooking class.

We admit to being somewhat purist about our cassoulet, but that’s because Ariane comes from Auch, in Gascony, where a specific recipe is followed. In cassoulet country (as Southwest France might be called), different versions are made in different towns, and the true recipe is much disputed. Some will use lamb (a no-no in our rule book), or crumbs on the top (zut alors!), while others will–and this is only in America–use low fat meats in an attempt to save calories. Blasphemy!

But first there is the question of the bean. The D’Artagnan version of cassoulet requires French heirloom beans: The haricot Tarbais. This broad white bean has evolved perfectly for the needs of cassoulet. With a thin, delicate skin and sweet, milky flesh, the Tarbais bean is a perfect match for the rich duck leg confit and sausages our recipe contains. And the magic of Tarbais beans is that most of them will remain whole during cooking, but just enough will burst and those will thicken the cassoulet during its many hours in the oven. We won’t tell you that cannellini beans are forbidden, but consider that we began importing Tarbais beans because Ariane found no substitute for them in America.

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Heirloom Haricot Tarbais

We use only duck and pork meats, and nothing smoked. Duck leg confit, duck and Armagnac sausageventrèche (a French take on pancetta) and pork and garlic sausage are the meaty ingredients in our recipe, each offering a unique texture. And we never, ever use crumbs on top. With a generous amount of duck fat, cassoulet will form a natural crust of cooked beans. Ariane was taught to break the crust several times as the cassoulet cooks, to thicken the layer of crunchy beans on top.

With all these “rules” cassoulet might seem intimidating. But there’s really nothing hard about preparing a cassoulet feast. Our recipe kit provides all you need (even a French clay bowl for cooking if you like, though any sizable Dutch oven or heavy pot will do), and our easy-to-follow recipe takes the mystery out of the process.

cassoulet in bowl

Our cassoulet recipe kit with clay bowl for cooking.

Plus, Ariane and her good friend, Chef Pierre Landet, made a video together to show you how simple it is to make a competitive-quality cassoulet on your first try.

Really, if you can make chili, you can make cassoulet. It’s a one-pot meal that cooks slowly in the oven, with only a little attention needed. And when it’s done, you can invite family and friends to a filling and satisfying meal. The nature of cassoulet is convivial, so get a few bottles of Madiran or Malbec and set out the chairs. Any accompaniments should be light, like a green salad and fruit for dessert.

Cassoulet JC Quote (2)

Leave it to Julia…

It’s National Bean Day!

We LOVE obscure food holidays. Surprisingly, there’s one for just about every day on the calendar. Our friends over at The Nibble put together a list and what do you know?! Today is National Bean Day – the perfect day to enjoy our versatile French Coco Tarbais Beans.

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Dried coco tarbais beans, ready to soak and cook.

The Coco Tarbais bean is one of the great exports of Southwest France, with a history as rich and wonderful as its flavor. These large white beans come from the village Tarbes and are grown within sight of the Pyrénées Mountains. Known as the best bean for the traditional cassoulet of the region,they’re also tremendous additions to summer salads, picnic foods, and season-agnostic appetizers. Plus, Tarbais beans are high in fiber and nutritional benefits as well. Richly satisfying, versatile, and not bad for you? Now that’s a tradition we can sink our spoons into.

coco tarbais beans on the vine growing up corn stalks

Young coco bean vines wind up corn stalks in Tarbes.

Tarbais beans were introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus, and they flourished in the sunlight of Southwest France, where they developed their own distinctive characteristics. They’re planted in early May alongside corn, and the two crops grow together, with the bean vines using the corn stalks as support. During the season, Tarbais beans are picked and sold fresh, but many are left to dry on the vines and are painstakingly hand harvested and sold dried. Just as true Champagne hails only from its namesake region, only beans grown and handpicked in the protected geographical French region may be called Tarbais Beans and are identified as “Label Rouge” on their packaging.

cassoulet recipe kit

Our Cassoulet Recipe Kit with an authentic cassoulet bowl.

Cassoulet 
It would be impossible to talk about haricot Tarbais and not discuss the traditional Gascon cassoulet. This dish has ignited passions in the Southwest of France for generations, each town claiming their version to be the one true recipe for cassoulet. Whatever the recipe (we, of course, believe ours is the best), cassoulet is bean and meat dish that cooks low and slow for hours, and feeds a crowd, often for several meals. Cassoulet tastes even better the day after it is cooked, as some kind of alchemy occurs when it is refrigerated for 24 hours and then reheated. To make a cassoulet, our French Coco Tarbais Beans - Label Rouge, of course – are the first place to start. The large, white bean has a thin skin allowing it to cook easier than other beans while still retaining its flavor and composition for the slow, mouthwatering stew. Beyond the beans, a cassoulet includes cured meats like Duck Confit; flavor-happy Duck & Armagnac SausageGarlic Sausage, and Ventrèche, or French pancetta; and a touch of Duck and Veal Demi-Glace and Duck Fat.

Where's your fork? Dig in!

We offer an easy-to-follow Cassoulet Recipe Kit, a perfect way to establish your own cassoulet tradition. Cassoulet makes a great holiday meal, and is best enjoyed with a few bottles of wine from the Southwest France (we like Madiran in particular).

Beyond the Bowl of Cassoulet
Aside from the slow-cooked Gascon stew, these versatile beans find their way into many dishes, most of which are quite simple to prepare.

white bean soup with ham and toast

Tarbais bean soup with heritage ham.

For a spicy, easy sausage dinner, we like to grill lamb merguez sausage and serve atop wilted spinach, Tarbais beans and a light mustard dressing. For an extra kick, stir some harissa into the dressing. Try our ground buffalo chili with Tarbais beans for a unique texture and flavor. Tarbais beans pair well with pork, so our recipe for porkchops with beans and escarole is a natural fit, and will likely become a go-to meal in your kitchen. Tarbais beans make for great appetizers, too. Puree them with Black Truffle Butter, and place atop a crostini; or puree with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and parsley and serve with homemade oregano pita chips.

tarbais beans crostini

Tarbais beans on crostini with herbs and parmesan.

No matter the season, stewpot, or picnic occasion, Tarbais beans are a welcome addition to any table.